The Spring 2020 Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX looks to be a beefed-up version of the brand’s popular Breeze III GTX, with a $10 higher price tag (MSRP $190). The boot is currently available at REI in men’s and women’s versions and a men’s low top model. They will be available in other retail locations on April 1st. We went on a pair of rainy day hikes with a 25-pound pack for this First Look.
The Breeze AT GTX inherits Breeze DNA, with an “all-terrain” boost:
- 2.0 mm waterproof nubuck leather upper
- Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable membrane
- Exclusive Vibram Contact Grip with Megagrip compound outsole
- All-Terrain Compound Midsole with EVA cushioning pods
- Dual-density EVA footbed
- Thermoplastic polyurethane shank
- Arc Tempo last
- Rubber toe and heel bumpers
- Verified weight, men’s size 10: 3 pounds, 1 ounce
Out of the box fit and comfort
For a midweight hiker on the heavier side, the Breeze AT GTX felt immediately comfortable. Within an hour, the midsole flexibility increased, and I felt further break-in wasn’t necessary. The boot became more comfortable as the miles accumulated, but after the first hour, I had zero complaints.
I have insanely sensitive skin on my feet, despite all my efforts to toughen them up. I wore a midweight hiking sock and never felt seams or other sources of potential hot spots.
My foot is a classic “duck foot;” my heel is small, my forefoot is broad, but my foot is thin. My ankles are also tiny. The boot felt a little high in volume forward of the arch, and the toe box felt a bit too tall. But the boot fit my heel and midfoot remarkably well. I could wiggle my toes, but my forefoot had no room to slide sideways. The overall excess volume didn’t detract from total comfort; it was noticeable and correctable via varying lace tension and sock thickness. And the extra space will be welcome as the temperatures rise, allowing for some swelling room.
The ankle cuff provided a snug fit without excessive lace tension or additional padding, which is typical for me.
On the trail
The Breeze AT Mid GTX was a very supportive boot for the midweight hiker category. With my 25-pound load, I had no issues hopping boulders or stomping down rock-filled gulleys. I didn’t feel any unwanted deformations or rolling in the midsole or upper, regardless of the angle of foot or terrain. I am not one to rely too heavily on the boot for ankle support, but I felt the amount given by the boot to be appropriate for the category.
The midsole felt stiff under the arch and felt flexible enough under the ball of the foot. It wasn’t as flexible as the light and fast hikers I usually use, but for such a supportive boot, the ease of flexion was surprising. I also wasn’t at all concerned about stone bruising, a common worry in lighter boots.
The midsole provided cushioning that felt appropriate for the amount of support. It was a firm ride, but still provided enough cushioning to keep my feet happy for the day, and I have sensitive feet. I didn’t think I would have gone softer, considering the overall supportive nature of the boot.
I would feel comfortable with heavier loads in the Breeze AT Mid GTX; I predict enough stability for loads approaching 50 pounds. And for the ability to carry such loads, the boot was supremely comfortable, much more comfortable than the other kicks in my collection reserved for loads in this range. I rarely take such a substantial boot right out of the box and hike for hours without noticing something on my sensitive feet, but these boots didn’t produce even a whisper of a complaint.
The traction was excellent on all surfaces, especially on the rock, similar to other experiences I’ve had with the Vibram Megagrip compound. The outsole lugs did a great job digging into gravel and grass and delivered confidence when clambering down steep downhills laden with soccer ball-sized boulders. The outsole did remarkably well on wet stone slabs as well. The only slips I felt were on dusty trails that had just received rain, the slick over hardpack that challenges all outsoles I’ve tried.
As with most boots equipped with a Gore-Tex bootie, the Breeze AT Mid GTX didn’t allow a single drop to penetrate during the rain-filled days. Crossing runoff choked creeks and drainages, where the boot was partially submerged, produced the same result.
The temperature was in the lower upper 40’s and lower 50s; I was happy to have the waterproof/breathable membrane. But usually, I prefer to go with a non-membrane version. My feet run extremely hot, and my preference is for the most breathability possible, and even then, I swap socks out frequently in summer temperatures. I usually sacrifice temporarily soaked feet in exchange for air permeability and rely on quicker drying to mitigate the negatives. Fortunately, Vasque will release non-waterproof versions next on April 1st.
But, on this day, I was happy to have the Gore-Tex. If I knew it was going to be lower temperatures, and I was confident of rain or repeated creek crossings less than ankle-deep, I may reconsider my no Gore-Tex rule.
For adventurers requiring a more supportive boot or tackling rougher terrain, with loads up to around 50 pounds, the Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX is a solid choice. It provided a high level of stability for midweight hiker and a level of comfort I have yet to experience in such a supportive boot. Add to that the impressive traction for a total package that is impressive and comes with a fair price.
Also kudos to Vasque for providing the option very soon for those that prefer non-waterproof hikers.
I cannot comment on durability given this First Look format, but close inspection of the boot and its features hinted to the durability expected of a high-quality hiker.
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